Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Maw of New Media

As of this writing, it is still possible to think of Art as something that is the opposite of Science, the opposite of Technology. Never mind that this was an illusion from the start. (What are brushes, paints, chisels, and violins?) It is still possible to find people who delight in confessing that they fled to the arts because they couldn't handle trigonometry, physics, etc. As the years pass, this conceptual division is going to become harder and harder to understand. It's going to sound like that ancient Chinese taxonomical text that Borges said Franz Kuhn unearthed, which divided the animal kingdom according to a scheme we find manifestly nonsensical. (1. Those that belong to the emperor. 2. Embalmed ones. 3.Those that are trained. 4. Suckling pigs....)

Art historians say that the rise of photography and mass-media technologies caused the world to be flooded with images to such an extent that photographic images now constitute a primary element of our environment, which is why so much art takes off from media iconography. Now: The world is not going to become less technological. Microchips will continue to burrow into every available surface, probably including human skin. Microcontrollers and programs will become a basic stratum of our environment. Their presence/stimulus/fact/irritant will demand response and critique from art, meaning that what we now call "new media" and still hold at arms length from "traditional art," will become coextensive with all of art. It will become art itself.

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